By Suzanne C. Miller
of learning requires not only hearing and applying, but also forgetting
and then remembering again"- John Gray
Research suggests that
faculty who are sensitive to their students learning styles reach
students more quickly and more easily than those who force all students
to adapt to the traditional read/lecture only approach (keep in mind
our discussion of memory). Use of learning styles is key to
enhanced memory. It is also important to keep in mind that each
student's memory retrieval strategies are linked to the way their
brain functions (brain-based learning). This
is not to say that we should not encourage students to explore all
learning styles and enhance all of their learning skills. Instead
it suggests that student will learn more quickly and with less emotional
resistance if we consider the learning style that is most natural
for them. Community College students, more than perhaps any
other group of learners frequently suffer from low self-esteem.
The more we can enhance learner success, the more likely we are to
retain students and to inspire them to continue their education.
Researchers at Diablo Valley
College in northern California have grouped learners into four categories.
Their research indicates that faculty can most easily reach students
using the methods outlined below:
Visual/ Verbal Learner learns best when information
is presented visually and in a written language format. This
type of learner can excel online or in courses which emphasize reading.
If you are a visual/verbal learner you probably prefer the
opportunity to read and reflect at your leisure rather than having
a face-to-face workshop covering the same materials.
It is wise to encourage
this type of learner to read course materials and mark them up with
a highlighter. Encourage them to write out responses to each
learning objective found in the introduction to each lesson.
This will help them remember vital information.
If your class involves
demonstrations such as lab experiments or assembly of equipment,
keep in mind that this type of learner may want to "read the
instructions" prior to participation.
Words from the Visual/Verbal
Learner: "When I study, I need a perfectly quiet
room. All I want to do is spread out my books and notes and note
cards on a big table and methodically go through my study materials
until I have the subject matter down. I donít want any background
music on. I canít stand studying with a partner. I donít want to
talk about what Iím learning; I just want to read and write about
it. Iím a Visual/Verbal learner. It seems that I learn best when
my brain is inundated with written words. When studying, I like
using gel pens and highlighters in six or seven different colors
to write information on flashcards. Often, during an exam, I can
remember the color of the information Iím trying to recall, and
then the color memory triggers the memory of the answer Iím looking
Visual/ Nonverbal Learner learns best when information
is presented visually and in a picture or design format. In a classroom
setting, they benefit from instructors who use visual aids such as
film, video, maps and charts. Online they need images and color
cues to help them remember information and to retain their full attention.
Repetitive use of the same icons can be very helpful.
The more visual aids
provided, the more likely visual/nonverbal learners are to enjoy
your course and succeed. This is especially true when writing instructions.
Visual/nonverbal learners often become impatient with long instructions
not enhanced by visual cues. As much as possible, translate
words and ideas into symbols, pictures, and diagrams. You may wish
to experiment with Photoshop
Both programs can help you develop better graphics and moving images
for the web or PowerPoint.
An important note:
visual/nonverbal learners have often been criticized by "serious"
academics because they like pictures and find that they learn
more from video presentations than from lectures. In the current
economy, visual/nonverbal learners are poised to succeed in multimedia
television and internet ventures, where their natural appreciation
of the power of visual imagery is important.
must also be acknowledged that serving the needs of the visual/nonverbal
learner takes substantially more time. One cannot simply
type out the course materials or give a lecture. Image creation,
video editing, and even use of icons take time and planning.
Words from the Visual/Nonverbal
Learner: "I have this kitchen utensil drawer at home, and
itís packed full of utensils of one kind or the other. Iíve never
been able to figure out why my husband can never find what heís
looking for when he opens the drawer. He just rummages around in
the drawer and looks distressed because he canít get his hands on
the spatula heís looking for. Then I walk over, take one look at
the drawer, and pick out the spatula quickly and easily. I realized,
after taking the Learning Style Survey, that our different experiences
have to do with our differing learning styles. Iím a Visual/Nonverbal
Learner. I can scan a dense visual field (like my kitchen drawer)
and quickly pick out an essential visual design (like the outline
of the spatula). My husband, on the other hand, is a Tactile/Kinesthetic
Learner. Heís not going to find that spatula until he gets his hands
on it-- which is no small feat in a drawer as crammed full of things
as our utensil drawer."
Auditory/ Verbal Learner learns best when information
is presented in an oral language format. In a classroom setting they
benefit from listening to lectures and participating in group
discussions. They also benefit from obtaining information from audio
tape. When trying to remember something, they can often "hear"
the way someone told you the information or the way it was repeated
out loud. They learn best when interacting with others in a listening/speaking
Words from the Auditory
Learner: "When Iím taking a test, I can hear in my head
the way my girlfriend and I discussed the subject matter when we
were studying together. I can hear my girlfriendís tone of voice;
I remember at what point we were laughing. Often it is the auditory
memories that I remember firstóthe tone of voice, the laughing.
Then I remember the content of what we were saying, and this gives
me the answer Iím looking for on my exam. Itís amazing to me how
strong an Auditory Learner I am. I remember loving to listen to
my grandfather tell stories when I was little. My brother couldnít
sit still long enough and would always run off before the story
was over. But me, I could just listen forever."
Tactile/ Kinesthetic Learner learns best when physically
engaged in a "hands on" activity. In the classroom
they benefit from a lab setting where they can manipulate materials
to learn new information. Since they learn best when physically active,
sitting in a lecture course can be very challenging.
Encourage these students
to stay actively engaged in the material. You might recommend
a field trip to an historical site, museum, concert or
other place where they can "experience" what they are
learning. Even a one day observation of a person who works
in that field may help them get a "feel" for how the information
in your course is relevant to them.
Words from the Tactile/Kinesthetic
Learner: "When I was little, I could never sit
for long periods of time in school, the way the other kids seemed
to be able to. I just needed to move my body. I could never understand
why we just sat at our desks, looked at the teacher and listened.
I wondered why we never seemed to DO anything. I figured I was
just a troublemaker, a bad student, and lazy. But now I see it
in terms of learning style. I am a Tactile/Kinesthetic learner.
I really need to be actively and physically involved when Iím
learning, or nothing sinks in. This is a real challenge in college,
especially in traditional lecture classes. But I take notes, and
I also draw pictures all over my notebook pagesóanything to keep
my hands busy during lecture. Somehow this helps me stay focused
on what the instructor is saying."
Typically we save all activities for the Apply section, but
we believe that it is important that you understand how the
learning styles survey works before we discuss its application.
You can take the survey online at: http://silcon.com/~scmiller/lsweb/dvclearn.htm.
Be sure to print out your results when you finish so that you
can refer back and reflect upon them later.
is based on Suzanne Miller's research into learning styles and was
written by the college's learning disability specialist Catherine
Jester. It comprises 32 multiple-choice questions designed to ascertain
a student's natural learning style, and it has been freely available
on the Web since January 1998.
By spring 2001, over 40,000 people from DVC and other colleges and
corporations had taken the Diablo Valley survey. This project,
which was was awarded the California Community College Foundation
TechED's 1st Place Award for "Best Use of Technology
in Education for 1999," has served to make faculty more aware
of the importance of understanding diverse learning styles and designing
course work to reach the broadest possible spectrum of styles. It
helps students by identifying their strengths, encouraging them
to become active managers of their educational resources, and to
take responsibility for their learning. Careful analysis of
the results, omitting any questionable reports, reveals that a knowledge
of their preferred learning style is helpful to students.
" I'm not stupid, I'm auditory" was how one student reacted
after taking the learning-styles diagnostic test. "I
realize there's nothing 'wrong' with me; I just process information
differently," was another student's comment.
the data generated by the test indicates that there may be a good
reason why so many people find various forms of learning difficult.
Among males aged between 18 and 25, just 17% are best suited
to learning through reading text. The figure for women in the same
age group is a bit higher: just under 35% learn most easily from textually
contrast with those for students aged 35 or over -- a substantial
population in today's community college community. In this age group,
27% of males and over 42% of females find it natural to learn from
reading. But that's still less than half the student population.
Research thus far does not indicate whether the difference between
the two age groups is a direct consequence of growing older or is
a reflection of changes in the environment in which today's "under
25" grew up.
By far the
most powerful method of learning among all age groups is visual
nonverbal: diagrams, tables, illustrations, pictures, and video.
Among the 18-25 age group, 48.1% of males and 36.2% of females favor
this method of learning. The figures for the over-35s are almost
identical: 46.0% and 38.8%. Half a century after the dawn of the
television age, these results are perhaps not surprising. But the
vast majority of courses are still structured around the traditional
college textbook and lecture, a method that clearly challenges students
to learn the material and how to learn at the same time.
At a time
when many people are taking college courses on the Internet, it
is worth noting of another of the findings: a surprisingly high
proportion of people learn best from listening. In the 18-25 age
group, 38.0% of males and 31.3% of females are predominantly auditory
learners; among the "over 35," 35.2% of males and 25.7%
of females. To reach those individuals, instruction
by voice as well as text, illustrations, and video is important.
group of learners the study has identified are those who learn best
in a tactile or kinesthetic fashion. Among the younger age
group, 20.2% of men and 20.7% of women learn best in this fashion;
among the older students, the figures are 14.1% and 13.1%, respectively.
Don't expect these individuals to succeed without tremendous effort
unless they are free to stand up and move around.
even more of a challenge for teachers, between 20 and 24% of students
do not fall cleanly into one particular category, but exhibit a
hybrid learning style that spans two or more of the four categories.
Of course, it may be that these students are at an advantaged by
their multiple learning styles, but the evidence to support this
conclusion is not clear at this time.
Statistics based upon: Males: 6,756 Females:10,868
18 - 25
18 - 25
offer a slightly different breakdown with essentially the same lessons
for faculty. They divide faculty into those who focus upon:
- Input: Visual,
- Perception: Sensing,
- Processing: Active,